Archive for the ‘Search’ Category

Information in the Enterprise

A thought occurred to me today as I was walking into work. Why is it that the first place I go, and probably most of my coworkers, when I want to find out something is the Google search box in my browser? Why don’t I use the search box on our corporate intranet?

There’s certainly no doubt that there’s a wealth of information out there on the internet. What’s interesting is that one of the reasons I started this blog back almost 3 years ago is I thought there were things I was encountering in my research for work that others might find valuable. It was probably about 6 months after I started blogging that someone at work did a Google search on something SOA or governance related, and up popped my blog in his results. It seems rather silly that a colleague at work had to go out to the public internet to find something that I had to say.

Being an Enterprise Architect, I create my fair share of Visio diagrams, PowerPoint presentations, and Word documents. In this day and age, there’s absolutely no reason that these things can’t be put into something like SharePoint and indexed so there are available via the search box on the intranet page. Unfortunately, not everything I do at work winds up in one of those documents, so I need to apply the same principles I used in creating this blog to what I do at work, and start making some of those discussions available internally, as well. What’s nice about internal blogs is they can be put into your RSS reader right along side external feeds. That won’t happen with search, unfortunately. This is actually one situation where I think it could be useful to have a company-specific version of the major browsers that would first direct searches in the default search box to the internal engine, and then follow that up with general search results from Google or somewhere else.

I encourage all of my readers who work in enterprises to think about how they can make more of their knowledge available to their co-workers through their intranets. If you don’t have internal support for blogging, wikis, and a decent search engine, it may be time to make the investment.

Taxonomy or folksonomy?

Dan Foody of Progress Software had an interesting blog recently called UDDI in a Web 2.0 World. In it, he asks:

SOA What? With all of this Web 2.0 development, it’s clear that internet scale folksonomies work far better than taxonomies. On the other hand enterprises are, for the most part, stuck with UDDI-related SOA governance tools and their strict taxonomy and categorization mechanisms. The open question though… is this really a problem?

Aside: I love the use of SOA What? That’s exactly why I try to always say S-O-A. On the subject, however, I think Dan raises an interesting question. One of the questions I’ve asked some of the registry/repository vendors is “Can you be indexed by a Google Appliance?” Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of taxonomy-based searching. At the same time, however, a typical enterprise asset repository may not have enough critical mass to get appropriate metadata for folksonomy based searching. The Web is filled with hyperlinks. How many links to a service detail page am I going to have inside a typical enterprise?

Personally, I’d rather try to find a way to build up the metadata than go crazy building taxonomies to support direct navigation. First off, you can quickly get into taxonomy hell where there are so many variations that you try to support that it becomes difficult to present to the user. Second, people are so used to using Google, Desktop Search, Spotlight, etc. Universal search is going to be a standard part of the office toolset, and we need to find a way to ensure relevant results get returned. This will likely require analysis of software development artifacts (including source code) and building up those relationships based upon presence within project repositories and the role of the user performing the search. A developer performing a search will want to see very different results when searching on “Customer service” than a business manager.

The challenge we face is that the documents and their metadata are scattered all over the place. I previously asked if metadata should be the center of the SOA universe. Neil Ward-Dutton replied that it the center of the universe, and is inherently federated. We need intelligent crawlers that can infer the appropriate relationships and feed this into the universal search engine. Is anyone out there leveraging a Google appliance or other universal search option to facilitate searching for services and other IT assets? If so, like Dan, I’d love to hear about your experiences.


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